Island Theater case remains in legal limbo

No decision from Superior Court judge on revised action plan to make the decrepit building safe.

Work to shore up and spruce up the Island theater is due to begin later this week. — Stacey Rupolo

It appears structural work will soon begin to make the Island Theater safe. On Tuesday, a twice-revised action plan to shore up the theater, which has been declared “dangerous,” was faxed to Superior Court Judge Cornelius Moriarty by Kevin Cain, attorney for theater owners Ben and Brian Hall. The plan is a requirement of a stipulated preliminary order issued by Judge Moriarty on May 18.

The May 30 plan states, “Subject to making arrangements for housing for the off-Island construction crew and ferry service for the contractor’s trucks and equipment, defendants reasonably anticipate that construction work on the shear walls will commence later this week, and barring any unforeseen impediments the work is anticipated to conclude within three weeks from the commencement date.”

Judge Moriarty allowed the proposal to be released to the press, but had made no formal ruling as of Wednesday afternoon.

This past Friday afternoon, a visibly annoyed Judge Moriarty told Mr. Cain that the action plan presented to the court, for the second time that week, was still inadequate because it did not contain signed contracts and completion dates.

The May 30 action plan states Louis Morales, of Weymouth-based Total Restoration, will do the structural repairs outlined in plans done by Vineyard Land Surveying & Engineering.

First Choice Quality Painting has been contracted to paint the exterior façade, according to Mr. Cain’s fax.


A real danger

On Friday, a beleaguered Mr. Cain told the judge he’d gone to great lengths to engage off-Island contractors that could do the work to make the theater safe, and to engage a painting contractor to paint the façade, per the agreement. He said he had a signed contract with a painting contractor, but not with the building contractor. “I was personally part of all of this negotiation, and I made it all happen in 48 hours,” he said. “If the building contractor didn’t have to take his daugher to the dentist, I’d have the numbers.”

Mr. Cain asked the court for latitude, saying had exercised best efforts to meet the deadline, which had been extended Wednesday after a contractor engaged by Brian Hall backed out at the last minute.

“I’m not worried about your part, what I am worried about, frankly, is your client’s part,” Judge Moriarty said. “I believe there were numerous offers to provide, but it seems they have struggled and delayed and done nothing.”

Asked his opinion by the judge, Oak Bluffs town counsel Ron Rappaport said he was “frustrated” that a signed contract with a building contractor was still not in hand. “I understand Mr. Cain has done the best he can,” he said.

As he did in Wednesday’s hearing, the judge expressed concern about public safety. A board of survey assembled by former Oak Bluffs building inspector Mark Barbadoro officially declared the Island Theater “dangerous” on Dec. 2.

“Let’s look at it realistically; the building is certified as dangerous,” Judge Moriarty said. “It sits at the busiest intersection on the entire Island. It poses a real danger.”

Mr. Cain suggested the building was not in imminent danger of collapse unless there were hurricane winds topping 120 miles an hour, “which hasn’t happened since 1938.”

“Be candid with me,” Judge Moriarty said. “The defendant is Lucky 7 Realty Trust. Two years ago and counting, attorney [Ben] Hall told me Lucky 7 couldn’t do the repairs because it had no money. Is that at issue here?”

“I don’t know,” Mr. Cain said. “I know there’s a contract to do the work. I do know absolutely one of the contractors is locked up, the other is the final details … I believe with 99 percent certainty that on Tuesday we can present a signed contract.”

Judge Moriarty gave the final extension of this Tuesday, with a caveat. “If that isn’t done, I may order a hearing on preliminary injunction, and I may order it consolidated with a trial on merits,” he said.

This is not the first case involving Judge Moriarty and the Hall family. In November 2015, the judge sentenced Ben Hall Sr. to 90 days in jail for contempt after he failed to make a payment deadline in a long-running civil case. “The time for legal shenanigans is over,” he wrote in his sharply worded decision.